Just like every year, there were a number of memorable things that happened Sunday during Super Bowl LVIII. (That would be the football game that was going on before and after the Usher concert, in case some of you were wondering.)
One of those moments came on the sidelines when Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was seen shoving, shouting at and essentially squaring up on his head coach Andy Reid, presumably because Kelce was wide open when the play that was called sent the ball to running back Isiah Pacheco, who fumbled it.
Now, to be fair, Kelce’s behavior did spark a moderate amount of outrage, even from those who typically reserve their ire for the Black national anthem, or anyone kneeling during their old, stale counter anthem with the racist lyrics that have to be omitted before the song can be sung in public. But what little outrage did exist after the display waned quickly when Reid gave his star athlete a pass by laughing it off and calling his assailant “passionate,” as opposed to violent, thuggish or any of the other things Black athletes get called after showing anything that even resembles poor sportsmanship.
There were a lot of Black people who saw the same altercation white football fans saw. But because we know Kelce got a softer reaction because the only thing Black about him is his haircut, Black people have been having an entirely different conversation about Taylor Swift’s boyfriend’s behavior.
Here’s the thing: Ultimately, what Kelce did probably wasn’t a big deal, and Black people will certainly be accused of “race-baiting” for making a mountain out of that particular molehill—but how else are we supposed to look at it?
I mean, white people spent years going in on Serena Williams every time she got “passionate” with the umpires during a tennis match. Williams was constantly dismissed as a beastly, aggressive, tantrum-throwing crybaby and a poor sport by the same people who exalted John McEnroe like he didn’t spend his entire career acting the absolute fool every time a call didn’t go his way.
Y’all just can’t expect Black people to sit silently about this after we watched white America call Allen Iverson a “thug” over his tattoos and cornrows, and after we watched Colin Kaepernick get blackballed from the NFL just for kneeling during Caucasian’s favorite America fanboy singalong.
Come on, white people, just imagine Travis Kelce was LeBron James and tell us you don’t know what we’re talking about here.
Honestly, it goes beyond sports. President Barack Obama couldn’t even wear a tan suit without white conservatives across the nation calling him the most radical, anti-American president in history. He would never have gotten away with being as infantile, boorish, blatantly bigoted and routinely disrespectful as Donald Trump during a single day of his presidency—because he simply doesn’t have the complexion for that protection.
Look, I can spend all day pointing out study after study that shows Black people are commonly perceived as more aggressive, hostile, angry and even larger in stature than our white counterparts of similar size and demeanor. But it won’t stop folks from playing around in our faces and pretending melanin isn’t the only real difference between “anger” and “passion.”
White privilege is a hell of a drug.